Melbourne: Novak Djokovic insisted he can pull off another miracle recovery in time for his Australian Open quarter-final with Tomas Berdych after his epic five-hour duel with Stanislas Wawrinka.
The Serbian world number one’s title defence was severely endangered when he was surprisingly taken to the brink by the Swiss 15th seed, before finally prevailing 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 12-10 in a shade over five hours.
Once again Djokovic delved into his extraordinary stamina levels to fend off the inspired Wawrinka, and the three-time champion will need every ounce of his fitness against Czech fifth seed Berdych on Tuesday.
Last year Djokovic came out on top against one of the fittest players on the tour when he overcame Rafael Nadal to win a gruelling 5hr 53min final.
That came two days after Djokovic saw off the threat from Andy Murray in a five-set semi-final over 4hr 50min.
It’s little wonder why Djokovic has the belief that he’ll be ready in compressed time to take on Berdych in the quarters.
“I’ve been in these situations before,” Djokovic said shortly after his exhilarating win over Wawrinka, which began on Sunday evening and finished at 1:41 am on Monday.
“I remember last year when I won against Murray in the semis after (almost) five hours, and then played against Rafa (Nadal) in almost six hours.
“I know I can recover. I know I have it in me. I’m not too much worried about the physical part. I was ready for it. I was ready to go the distance, and I’ve done so.
“Hopefully I can take tomorrow [Monday] off and recover for quarters.”
Djokovic leads the big-serving Berdych 11-1 in their matches, but it is 1-1 in Grand Slams with the Czech getting the better of him in straight sets in the semi-finals of 2010 Wimbledon.
The Serb downed Berdych in straight sets in the quarter-finals at the 2011 Australian Open.
Djokovic had a look of relief when Wawrinka lost a thrilling rally on the third match point to end their remarkable contest.
“I’m just thrilled to be able to fight once again up to the last moment,” he said. “The fact is that I didn’t play nearly my best and I didn’t feel well on the court in terms of rhythm and ball-striking.
“But credit to him [Wawrinka], he made me run all over the court. He never gave me the same ball. He was aggressive from both sides.
“I didn’t know what’s coming up next. So I’m just really full of joy after the match.”
Berdych, well-rested after his regulation straight-sets win over South African Kevin Anderson, said he would be fully prepared for Djokovic.
“I would say I feel much better [than last year],” said Berdych, who was beaten in four sets by Rafael Nadal in the last eight in 2012.
“Last year was a pretty big year for me. There were many new experiences that I learned. I hope that I’m going to be able to profit from that.”